Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is a special place for Kiwis and international visitors alike. Famous for its dramatic natural beauty and holding deep spiritual significance for the Ngāi Tahu iwi, the park is home to New Zealand’s tallest mountain and longest glacier. Visitor information, activities and accommodation are available in Mt Cook Village and nearby Glentanner.
There’s no shortage of things to see and do. Here are just five ideas – discover more for yourself.
1. Hold an iceberg in the palm of your hand.
There are many glaciers in the national park, but the most famous is the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand’s longest. A short walk takes you to the Tasman terminal lake, where icebergs – some massive, some tiny – break off the glacier and float to the lake shore. All you have to do is reach down and pick them up.
2. Take time to gaze at the stars.
The entire Mackenzie is an international dark sky reserve, so there’s no shortage of great places to view the stars. But seeing the clear night sky framed by the snow-capped Southern Alps is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Go farther: Big Sky Stargazing offers guided tours of the night sky in the national park, or find a picturesque spot along one of the tracks for your own private stargazing. Just be sure to take a torch and warm jacket!
3. Witness an avalanche.
It’s normal to hear far-off avalanches as you walk the tracks of the national park or relax in Mt Cook Village. They crash down the steep slopes of the Southern Alps and make a sound like thunder. A lucky few even get to witness these natural wonders on the distant mountains – a truly incredible experience!
Go farther: One of the best viewpoints for avalanches is the Sealy Tarns track and Mueller Hut route. This is an alpine route so proper gear and safety precautions are required – check conditions with the Aoraki Mount Cook Department of Conservation Visitor Centre before setting out.
4. Discover a beautiful fairy forest.
The national park is home to some incredible walks, including short walks that are great for both kids and adults. Explore Mt Cook Village’s own fern-filled fairy forest on the Governor’s Bush Track. This walk is a 45-minute loop through beautiful native bush and begins from the public day shelter.
Go farther: Want to learn more about the local flora and fauna? The DOC Visitor Centre includes an impressive museum with interactive exhibits on the natural and human history of the park. Great for entertaining the kids and a perfect rainy day option.
5. Come face to face with a legend.
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The Hooker Valley Track is one of the most famous day walks in New Zealand, and for good reason. It’s a beautiful 3-hour round trip that brings you face to face with mighty Aoraki itself.
Go farther: Climbing Aoraki is for serious mountaineers only, but there is an easier (and faster!) way to see it up close. Several companies offer scenic helicopter and plane flights with views of Mount Cook so close you feel you can reach out and touch it.